Surveys show that between 40% and 60% of those recovering from drug addiction have relapsed at one point or another. With such high odds, it’s normal to fall back on your old habits in times of stress.
Yet, people need to understand that relapse doesn’t mean you’ve failed at recovery. It doesn’t mean you have to start treatment all over again.
Use your regression as a learning tool instead of being riddled with shame and guilt. Fix the parts of your prevention plan that aren’t working for you so you don’t make the same mistake again. Digging deeper into the real reasons behind the relapse will lay the foundation for a stronger, more resilient recovery.
At Miracles Recovery Center in Port St. Lucie, a treatment center provider in FL, you can find an effective recovery plan in substance abuse treatment to help you sustain your sobriety and prevent relapsing.
Keep reading to learn more.
Table of Contents
- 1 Understanding Drug Relapse
- 2 Coping Strategies and Tools for Preventing Relapse
- 3 Developing a Relapse Prevention Plan at Miracles Recovery Center
- 4 Conclusion
Understanding Drug Relapse
Substance use disorder (SUD), or addiction, is a chronic brain disorder. It has a similar relapse rate to other chronic diseases like diabetes.
This means that if someone suffering from any type of chronic disease stops their treatment plan, their progress will regress, and substance abuse addiction is no different. When recovering people with a substance use disorder stop their treatment plans, they become much more likely to relapse.
People with a substance use disorder spend years before their treatment using drugs. This creates a mental association that links their daily routine with the ‘high’ they get from substance use. So, it’s only natural that when they integrate back into society, almost anything tied to their old routine could potentially activate the craving reflex in their brains.
It’s like flipping on a switch in their brain in response to some sort of internal or external relapse trigger.
The good news is that triggers tend to decrease frequency the longer they abstain from drug use. That said, anyone in recovery needs to expect them to happen and be prepared to respond appropriately when they come face-to-face with a trigger and observe warning signs of relapse.
What causes a relapse?
During the treatment program, whether it’s inpatient or outpatient, people with a substance use disorder are surrounded by a formidable support system of medical experts, counselors, and therapists. They’re monitored constantly and given high doses of encouragement and motivation to help them wean off their drug dependency.
Yet, after the treatment process is over, they’re sent out into the real world to resume their normal lives of work, school, and other commitments.
However, after a period of sobriety, things can get a bit too much for recovering people with a substance use disorder. Seeing old friends, having to put up with deadlines at work, and dealing with responsibilities at home can be stressful.
Without the right coping mechanisms, recovering addicts can find themselves in a brief moment of weakness, resulting in resorting to drugs again.
The sad truth is that relapse is recognized as a common side effect of being back in the world. Still, it can be devastating for an addict, and bring on feelings of remorse, humiliation, and guilt.
The reassuring part is that relapse doesn’t happen on its own. It’s often brought on by cues or what’s known as ‘triggers.’
Triggers are an environmental, emotional, or social situation that drags up memories of drug use in the past. These past thoughts can stir up a whirlwind of emotions that can be too complicated to handle, leading to the impulse to want to use a substance again or relapse.
It’s worth noting that triggers don’t necessarily automatically lead to relapse. However, they do make it much more difficult for a recovering addict to resist the strong urges and cravings they produce.
The way these triggers manifest themselves varies from person to person. For example, some people may become so stressed about performing well at work or school that they’re tempted to ease the tension by resorting to substance use.
Others, on the other hand, might experience a rush of emotions when they see old loved ones and friends.
Therefore, the first thing you should do is identify your triggers. Then, you can create a relapse prevention strategies to effectively cope with each one.
Once you have a plan set up, you’ll be in a better position to defend yourself against any potential relapse in the future no matter the situation.
Relapse symptoms can be subtle and may include:
- Straying from the treatment plan
- Not making sobriety a top priority
- Irritability and tension
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Reduced ability to focus and concentrate
- Increased feelings of fear and apprehension
- Social withdrawal symptoms
- Decline in personal hygiene
Expecting triggers is a sign of a strong recovering addict. The better prepared you are, the more you’ll be able to safeguard yourself from an addiction relapse.
As we mentioned earlier, triggers are different for everyone. However, there are some familiar cues that almost all recovering addicts experience.
Here are 10 common triggers in addiction recovery:
- HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired
- An initial sense of overconfidence in the recovery process
- New jobs or promotions
- Being in places and situations where drugs are available
- Being around people who still use drugs
- Stress and anxiety
Mental health conditions or physical illness
Coping Strategies and Tools for Preventing Relapse
Don’t shy away from triggers or pretend they don’t exist. Instead, try to work on acknowledging the likely chance that you might experience one or more if you just got out of alcohol abuse.
Once you feel comfortable enough with the idea of expecting triggers, you can start putting together a solid relapse prevention plan course of action to avoid them altogether. The plan should also include a handful of practical coping mechanisms to help you manage each one as it arises without having that intense need to use again–thus, healthy coping skills are a must.
To start, make a conscious decision or thought patterns to help you avoid and handle triggers to make a new life in recovery more manageable, develop self-esteem, and seamless to disable high-risk situations of relapse.
Below are some great coping mechanisms that have stood the test of time.
1. Learn from setbacks
There’s no ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to life. That just sets you up for failure because no one is perfect. We’re all human, we all make mistakes.
Yet, those who are determined to change are the ones who learn from these setbacks. They use them as a lesson in what not to do as a way to stay resilient and move forward with their recovery.
2. Redefine fun
Before treatment, an addict’s idea of fun was to use drugs. Now, in order to sustain their recovery progress and maintain a sober, drug-free life, they need to find new ways of having fun beyond the use of substances and stimulants.
3. Become comfortable with change
The path to recovery isn’t smooth and well-paved. It’s bumpy and full of uncomfortable moments. Yet, it’s not permanent.
That’s the beauty of change. Nothing stays the same forever. The pain and discomfort will eventually go away and will be replaced with feelings of hope and fulfillment.
Until that happens, you have to put in the work. Focus on the good that is coming your way, and everything will work out in the end.
4. Maintain a support system
We all think we can do it all without help from anyone. Yet, the truth is there are times when we’re vulnerable and weak, and we need someone to lean on. Recovery is one of those times.
Your support system can be your family, a friend you trust, your sponsor, or members of your community. These are the people you feel comfortable calling or texting to help overcome the an addiction trigger.
5. Practice self-care
Stress is a major trigger for every one of us, but especially recovering addicts,s because it spurs the impulse of wanting to use drugs as an escape or to numb the pain.
To lower the effects of stress, you need to learn how to practice self-care. This can be something as simple as doing 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation in a quiet corner of your home. Or, it can be spending an hour outdoors jogging, hiking, or fishing.
The important thing is to take the time to discover what works best for you. Then, make it an integral part of your personal recovery strategy.
Developing a Relapse Prevention Plan at Miracles Recovery Center
Miracles Recovery Center is located to the south of the Sunshine State in the booming city of Port St. Lucie. Launched in 2019, it’s become a haven for those seeking addiction treatment.
Their mission is to provide patients with a comfortable, welcoming environment where they can feel safe like they’re with family.
The center’s team of qualified professionals is there every step of the way to help individuals sustain sobriety and avoid relapsing. They do this with the help of a comprehensive relapse prevention plan tailored to the unique needs of each patient.
The importance of having individualized plans
These plans are designed as both short- and long-term solutions to manage relapsing. It teaches individuals how to boost their self-confidence and understand their mindset when they’re faced with certain addiction triggers.
In addition, the plan helps individuals have better self-control by developing the coping skills they need to prevent and manage addiction triggers. This is one of the vital features of recovery, which aims at achieving sustained sobriety.
Another key component of an effective relapse prevention plan is the presence of a support system. This is why the Miracles Recovery staff encourages the involvement of family member and loved ones who can offer the incentive to change.
Finally, Miracles Recovery Center understands the power that cognitive-behavioral therapy has in reducing the risk of relapse. So, they focus on strategies, such as finding connections between the individuals’ thoughts and feelings.
They also increase awareness of how their feelings and actions are linked, and how much of an impact they have on their recovery.
The importance of adjusting the plan
As time goes by, things happen in our lives that force us to change how we feel and think. It could be that what you felt to be triggers last year no longer affects you as much. Or maybe they’ve been replaced by other cues.
Just as your triggers are changing, so should your relapse prevention plan. After all, recovery is a journey, not a destination.
So, your recovery plan should always be adjusted and modified to match your current life path.
At Miracles Recovery Center, they understand that adjustments need to be made every once in a while to help you sustain your sobriety and stay motivated.
The 3 Stages of Relapse
To better understand relapse, don’t think of it as a singular event. Instead, think of it as a process that’s broken down into three stages.
Take a look.
The first stage is emotional relapse. This often occurs even before someone begins to think about using again or that they’re in danger of relapsing.
It usually starts when the individual has recurring intense negative emotions. They become angry and irritated at the slightest thing, and may even suffer from extreme mood swings.
This stage often happens due to a lack of a support system. Yet, the expert team at Miracles Recovery Center can catch the signs early on and develop coping strategies to save the individual from the heartache and trauma of relapsing later on.
This second stage is often more internalized than the first. Half of the addict wants to stay in treatment and achieve long-term sobriety, while the other half wants to use again. So, they stay locked in a mental tug-of-war.
Unfortunately, there will always be a part of the person who wants to use again, which is why drug use is defined as a ‘chronic’ condition. That’s why the team at Miracles Recovery Center is so keen on creating individual plans for each patient. This helps them, as well as the individual, identify their triggers.
Once they know what to expect, they can learn the best ways to avoid them and, ultimately, avoid relapsing.
It sounds simple enough: know your triggers, then avoid them. Yet, the real world is much more complicated.
The final stage of relapse is the physical stage, which is what people commonly think of when they hear the word ‘relapse.’
During this stage, the individual finally succumbs to drugs. Just one time can result in such intense cravings that it breaks down all their defenses and gets them hooked on using again.
To avoid reaching this stage, the staff at Miracles Recovery Center advises patients to surround themselves with a positive support system. This means regularly going to counseling and attending group therapy, and being around people who are positive and encouraging.
The staff at Miracles Recovery Center offers a wide variety of addiction treatment programs to help individuals on their recovery journey. Then, after treatment, they’re also there to offer guidance and support through a relapse prevention plan to aid in long-term recovery and sustained sobriety. Visit the center for more information about their treatment programs and recovery plans. You can also call, email, or text their counselors any time, day or night.
Listing of cited sources
Additional resources about drug relapse and prevention